Your new training partner!
First of all, thanks Specialized for sending such a primo piece of cycling apparel ... twice.
You see, the first time, I goofed and requested a size too big. Which turned into a great lesson when selecting shorts for yourself. Make sure you try them on, and if you can't, most web sites (including Specialized's ... don't ask me how I missed this) include a sizing chart.
However if you're like me, you'll still feel anxious about the sizing chart because when it comes to women's cycling clothing, it can feel like they designed them without a woman anywhere near the sewing machine. You know the common complaints: shorts that are too low-waisted, or too short, or that fit around your middle and then cut the circulation off in your thighs; jerseys that are too short-torsoed, etc etc. I own a few things that are one size too big, just to get around these points (at the cost of others!).
Good news! You can trust Specialized.
I had the pleasure of emailing back and forth with one of Specialized's R&D pros -- a woman -- and once we got me in the correct size, I was off to the races. Here's my thoughts on the shorts after breaking them in over numerous mountain bike rides, on the trainer, and finally to cap off my experience, a 100+ km road ride this past Sunday.
Beautiful. Not too short, not too long. I have no idea how many "panels" there are, but I can tell you that there aren't any annoying seams to dig in anywhere. Everything is flat, and in matching black stitching -- I can't stand when the stitching doesn't match. So, I dare say that they're even slimming ... and in more ways than one! On the mtb, they always stayed in one place even though I was moving around much more than on the road bike. Speaking of mtb, I'm not one for bibs -- being a girl who sometimes has to pee in the woods -- so I also appreciate that they are nice and high-waisted so you don't get "gapped" in the rear. Finally, the waist is fit properly, so there's no need for a drawstring to crush into your belly button. Just a nice, flat, comfortable, feels-like-you're-really-in-them fit.
They just feel good. These shorts have some heft, but not too much. They feel light and they don't constrict, and yet they still support your muscles and they're not so thin that the sun can get in and show everyone your bum. It's happened to me before, and it's not pretty. Also, after the scorching heat of the weekend, I can also report that sweat didn't collect in the usual places -- everything was evenly wicked and very comfortable. No saddle sores or chaffing to speak of.
I'm told that they have put a lot of thought into their chamois, and it shows. This is the crucial component of any cycling short, and Specialized has a winner. The chamois is padded, but not bulky. If you're wearing the right size short, it should hug your body at all points -- no part of it is not in contact. I find that sometimes women's shorts are designed with a more upright riding position in mind, but as I found out with my final ride before writing this review, you can be comfortable bent over your road bike in a racy position for a very long time. Only twice did I have to stand up to "readjust" over the entire 100km. And best of all, when you lean forward even farther to get into the drops, the chamois is waiting for you on the bolt and it's as comfy as can be. And when the ride was over, I had no complaints. No numbness. No stinging. The perfect shorts if you have an amourous evening planned. ;)
I expect we'll be sharing many, many miles together before these babies get threadbare. I've washed them many times now and the bands around the cuffs have not cracked. The seams haven't got any orphaned threads. There is no pilling to speak of. The chamois is still as puffy as a cloud. Only time will really tell, but so far, all signs point to the start of a beautiful friendship.
To conclude, I'm stoked on these shorts and they are definitely in the "A-pile". It would be fun if they came in more than two colours, but I'd probably still buy black so the point is moot. If you're in the market for new cycling shorts, head on over to Specialized.